Fast track

Chris Moloney, COO for the Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group, shares his views

What is the InterContinental Hotels Group planning?
InterContinental, the world’s most global hotel company, is keen to further consolidate its position as the top chain in the Middle East and as InterContinental Dubai celebrates its 30th anniversary there is much to cheer about.

The success of the InterContinental Dubai reflects our ability to adapt and meet changing market demands and proves that we’ve got what it takes to be at the top of the game for 30 years.
With properties across the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, Eritrea, Zambia, Gabon, the group – which provides accommodation for 120 million guests per year – is looking to introduce new hotels from its brand portfolio to the growing Middle East and Africa market. Future growth is also being planned for Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran and Syria – destinations holding imminent potential especially for leisure, although it is still too early to understand how these places want to operate.

What is the company’s strategy in the face of competition?
With major projects under way, the InterContinental Hotel Group is very clear on what each of its brands represent. Brand is paramount. One thing is clear: we will not do anything that will jeopardise the value of our brands. The value is in the brand and our reputation for consistency upholds that. Partnerships with our owners will ensure that we are able to provide the product that can fit any specific location. We have made a commitment to the Middle East market and have the ability to respond to either owner’s or customer’s demands. We know what’s up, what’s down, what’s hot, what’s not. We can adjust accordingly so it’s important that we have the complete trust of the owners who will allow us do what we want to. We continuously instill the importance of ‘distinct core values’ within each of InterContinental Hotels Group’s brands and that is what differentiates the company from other competitors.

What can guests look forward to?
A shift in the market due to the growth of the middle class throughout the GCC as well as the retention of pan Arab tourism calls for the kind of facility that the introduction of Express by Holiday Inn will make available a quality service at value for money. Targeted to what is now the largest sector in the travel industry, it will be places at major road arteries and industrial areas.
At present, all budget accommodation is non-branded, independent and privately owned. Our company is planning to launch critical mass fast enough to establish brand recognition through a joint launch of Express by Holiday Inn in the GCC and Levant. The result will be the development of the most successful budget brand in the Middle East.
We are striving to remove aspects of the hotel experience that are unpleasant, to optimise fundamentals and create a hassle-free environment. We’ve been using the cliché for years but it’s a matter of really making it happen. I travel a great deal and I still face hassles… we need to focus on the operational aspects and remove the bureaucratic path from guest experience.”